Post by Anne-Marie
Got a spare $20 or $30? Spend it on Rumba. Stop reading this review and go do it. Tell them Anne-Marie sent you.
Still here? Want the full story? Well, Rumba is a complicated fragrance to review. Although it was released by Balanciaga in 1988 (or 1989, according to some sources), the rights were later bought by Ted Lapidus and the fragrance is now packaged (identically) under that name. I don’t know when the switch occurred; less than 10 years ago, deducing from various online reviews.
Rumba by Balenciaga/Ted Lapidus 1988
Rumba by Jean-Claude Ellena and Ron Winnegrad
Photo Stolen Fragrantica
Fragrantica gives these featured notes:
Top: Bergamot, plum, basil, peach, orange blossom, raspberry, mirabelle
Heart: Honey, jasmine, tuberose, carnation, heliotrope, magnolia, gardenia, lily-of-the-valley, orchid, marigold, rose
Base: Ambergris, vanilla, leather, tonka bean, patchouli, musk, sandalwood, cedar, plum, styrax, oakmoss
I’m reviewing the Lapidus version. The notes are almost identical (mirabelle, ambergris and rose are added). I have not smelled the Balenciaga, so please comment if you have compared them. From reviews, it sounds as if the Lapidus team opened a window to let some fresh air to circulate between the notes. I’m glad of that, because even the Lapidus is one helluva fragrance.
Photo Stolen Wikipedia
Spraying Rumba is like letting the 1980s out of a bottle. Hop over to Spotify and pull up a 1980s playlist. That. At opening, intensely cooked fruit is modified – very interestingly – by a damp herbal accord (bergamot and basil). The next phase is not so pleasing. I get a harsh and, well, vulgar white flower accord, tuberose in particular, typical of the era. Oakmoss is supposed to be a basenote, but dear God! Here it is already.
Eventually Rumba calms down, and although it’s been fun, I’m glad. I can’t listen to Bonnie Tyler and Def Leppard all night, sorry. Vanilla is NOT a note I love unreservedly but here, unsweetened, it is wonderfully balanced with dry, smoky, leathery notes. So it’s goodbye to the 1980s, and hello to today’s niche/experimental style of fragrance. (And how much of that can you get for under $40?)
Photo Stolen WikiCommons
Rumba is an unsubtle scent; not a morning fragrance at all, really. Apply it in moderation in the afternoon, well before leaving the house, and it will take you into evening and on until the following morning.
I suspect that Rumba is often treated as an historical curiosity, more talked about than worn. Because yes, it was co-developed by Jean-Claude Ellena, famous now for his elusive, delicate etudes for Hermes. But give Rumba some skin time, judge it on its merits, and have fun!